Getaway House Inc.’s plans for 38-cabin development in Columbia County meets local opposition
A plan to place dozens of cabins on 90 acres of rural conservation land in Columbia County is getting a mixed reception.
On its website, Getaway House Incorporated boasts of "15 outposts and counting," offering "simple escapes to nature within two hours of major cities across the country." Now, Getaway is looking to set up shop in the Town of Claverack.
The plan calls for a 38-cabin development in the form of tiny houses mounted on trailers, which would be situated on the rural conservation land known as Evergreen Estates, a largely undeveloped subdivision on State Route 23, currently on the market for $1.8 million dollars.
Some calling the cabins "little motel rooms in the woods," critics say Getaway's business model poses a risk to public safety, drains local resources and is bad for the environment. They also fear it will set precedents for both Columbia County and the state.
Enid Futterman says she does not disagree with fellow residents’ objections, but believes it might be best to open the scenic land so that it may be enjoyed by outdoors enthusiasts.
“And ideally, it would remain that way and become a Columbia Land Conservancy recreational conservation area," said Futterman. "That would be ideal, or that it would become part of the Won Dharma Center property. But that doesn't seem to be happening... of the possibilities that exist, Getaway might be better than then most, you know, would be better than a suburban style development of houses, I believe, and it would have less impact on the land.”
The Columbia Land Conservancy declined to comment. Futterman notes that according to Getaway's current plan, 75 of those 90 acres would not be touched. But she adds "there's no guarantee of that."
Diana Rupp is opposed to the plan. She says there's been heated debate as the Claverack Board of Zoning Appeals wrestles with determining whether the Getaway site will be classified as a campground or as a hotel. A decision is expected later this month.
"And they have a huge amount of investor capital behind them," said Rupp. "And they want to, you know, raise their revenue from $30 million to a billion. So this is going to be relevant not only in Columbia County, but also in Massachusetts, in Vermont, and what have you. And they're building, you know, outside of metro areas all over the country."
Opponents argue that the cabins Getaway plans to install are in reality fully equipped tiny houses in the woods for rent, with amenities including heating and cooling, running showers and toilets, so users would not technically be "camping." Some are calling for a broad environmental review, others have concerns about vehicular traffic.
Brandon Eggena is concerned about the number of people the Getaway site would bring into the area.
“Running the numbers based on their occupancy and the types of rooms that they're doing, it looks like they’d would bring 48,000 people a year, when they're going to do 50, which they said they scaled it back," said Eggena . "But it's still a sizable number of people, compared to the 6,500 people that are actually in the town, that the town is currently accounting for in terms of their services. So like fire and police and all that fun stuff, and EMS, where if you have like, you know, 48,000 people who are driving up from the city, presumably, most of them following along the Taconic and through various back roads to get to this location. And so it's just, it really has a huge impact.”
The Board of Zoning Appeals met for two and a half hours last Wednesday night, a lot of that time spent hearing public comment.
Richard Cross, who has owned the property for more than 20 years, is now 75 and says he has "retired into farming" in Northeast Pennsylvania. He trusts the land would be in good hands under Getaway.
"I'm an absentee owner," Cross said. "I don't think absentee ownership is a good thing. I know, it's not a good thing on the land, because it needs to be monitored, and I'm not around to monitor it... I do in the end, wish for equanimity to prevail. And I also wish that whatever issues and problems the neighbors have, that they get resolved and much of that, if not all of that is up to Getaway to resolve. I do not want to sell this land and have it be something that the neighbors have a problem with."
Getaway did not respond to requests for comment. Cross recently wrote a letter to the board in favor of the proposed campground application. The board's next meeting is set for August 24th.